DIY Topological Map in Denim | Fun Recycling Project | Wall Art

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About: Multi-crafter, jewellery maker, card designer and frequent procrastinator.

I've recently been doing some jeans repairs, and this has left me with various scraps of denim, as well as some jeans that have seen better days. I've been wondering about what to do with this fabric, and one of my ideas was to make a 'topographical' style map, making use of the different shades of denim.

A topographic map is a simplified map showing the relief of an area of land, usually in the form of contour lines.

I created my own pattern of countour lines, but you could base yours on an actual area of land, or a series of hills/mountains.

I hope you enjoy this project!

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Step 1: What You Will Need

- Fabric: I used various samples of denim I bought off Ebay, plus denim from old jeans. However, feel free to use other clothing or woven fabric scraps for this if you wish. I think fabrics that are different shades of the same colour work best.

- Needle and thread; You can use a matching thread or contrast thread for this.

- A piece of paper; For the template.

- A piece of card; For the display frame. I used an A4 piece of textured card that is 300gsm thick. If you make a larger map, you will need a larger piece of card. Feel free to display the map in a shadow box or similar instead if you wish.

- Fray check (optional); This just helps to prevent fraying around the edges.

- Enamel accents in white; I used this to outline the contour lines in white, but this is optional. A fine paint brush and some white paint could also be used.

- An X-acto knife & cutting mat

- Rotary cutter (optional but recommended)

- Bone folder (optional but recommended)

- Scissors

- Metal ruler

- Pencil & eraser

- Double sided tape (or glue).

- 'Magic' fabric pen or pencil; A pen/pencil that can draw temporarily on fabric (the drawn lines gradually disappear.) I used a water soluble white pencil that disappears or can be removed with a damp cloth.

- Self-adhesive foam pads (optional); Tape or glue could be used instead.

- Fabric glue (optional)

Step 2: Design the Map Template

Do a few little doodles to work out the layout of the map. I knew approximately the shape and size of mine, as I knew which piece of denim I wanted as the base layer (due to it being the darkest shade).

If you know which fabric scraps you are using, this will determine/limit what size your map can be.

Once you have figured out the design, cut a piece of paper into a rectangle shape - the same size as the finished map will be.

Then draw out the final design on this piece of paper.

Choose the fabric to use as the base layer, and then trace around the paper template onto this fabric. I used a water soluble white pencil for this.

Then cut along these lines using a rotary cutter and a ruler (or scissors).

Note: I left the selvedge on the top of my base layer because at this point I didn't know if I was going to make a mini wall hanging or not.

Number each contour on the map template, then decide which piece of fabric will represent each contour and number them (I used post-its). This is just for your own reference.

Step 3: Cut Out the Contours

We already have the base layer, but now we need to cut out all the other layers of the map. I had 8 layers in total.

First, cut off the outermost (or lowest in terms of land relief) pieces from the paper template. In my case, I cut off the area numbered '8', as that represented my base layer.

Now use this smaller template to cut out the correct shape from the next piece of fabric you want to use ('7' in my case).

* I drew around the template using a water soluble white pencil (although any disappearing fabric pen or chalk marker would do). To cut the pieces out, I used a ruler and rotary cutter for the straight edges, and scissors for the curved edges. *

Then cut the next number off the paper template - I removed the section labelled '7'.

Use this reduced template to cut out the next fabric shape (in my case, I'm cutting from fabric number '6').

And you carry on in this manner until all of the contour shapes have been cut out from the matching fabrics.

These should all stack neatly on top of each other.

Step 4: Stitch the Layers Together

How you sew the layers together is up to you - if you don't like sewing, you could even use fabric glue to attach them instead!

I used a dark blue sewing thread to sew the layers together using a simple running stitch. If you want the stitches to stand out more you can use a contrasting thread instead.

Start by sewing together the top 2 layers, knotting the thread at the beginning and end to secure it.

Then sew these layers onto the next layer down. Then sew these to the layer underneath....and so on until every contour is outlined in stitches.

Use a ruler and rotary cutter to neaten up the edges once you have finished, by just removing a very narrow slither of fabric on each side. Now the edges should line up perfectly.

Step 5: Outlining

If you have 'fray check' liquid sealant, you can apply some to the outside edge of the map to help prevent fraying, but this is an optional step.

Then you can outline the contours to make them stand out more. If you prefer, you could use a contrasting white sewing thread to go around the contours (using backstitch perhaps) instead of applying painted lines.

I used 'Enamel Effects' as I already had this and the bottle has a very fine tip. You will either need some form of white paint in a fine-tipped bottle, or you could apply it using a very fine paintbrush.

Carefully apply it around the edges of each piece of fabric, then leave to dry.

Step 6: Make a Card Frame

Because my map is pretty small, I can use an A4 piece of (300 gsm) card to create the frame; you may require a larger piece.

I placed the map in the centre (widthwise) of the card, and measured how much card was showing on either side. This was around 4 cm. I then placed the map this distance from the bottom edge, and also measured this distance from the top of the map.

I marked this point with a pencil across the wdith of the card, joined the points, and then used a craft knife and ruler to cut along the line.

This left me with my mapsurrounded by around 4 cm of card on each side. I faintly marked where the corners of the map were positioned using my pencil.

I had 4 cm to play with to make the frame, and I decided the frame would be 1 cm wide and 1 cm high, which would leave me with 1 cm visible card each side of the map as a border.

So I drew 2 pencil lines along each edge; one 1 cm from the edge, and the other 2 cm from the edge. I then scored along these lines with my craft knife.

On one side of each corner, I measured 1 cm along the edge, from the 'square' of pencil lines. Join this point to the centre of the 'square', as shown in the photos. Do this for each corner.

Then cut along the drawn lines at each corner, as shown. You are basically just cutting out the corner 'square' plus a little 45-degree diagonal section.

Step 7: Finish Framing

Then fold the sides of the piece of card upwards, along the 2 scored lines at each edge. Use a bone folder if you have one to create sharp creases.

Cut out 4 small triangles of double-sided tape and place one in each corner, on the card edges that haven't been cut at a 45-degree angle.

Remove the protective film from the tape and attach the frame corners together. Each corner should look like a neat mitre joint now, yay!

Then you just need to attach your map in the centre. I used sticky foam pads, but stong double-sided tape would also work.

Step 8: Finished!

I really liked how this turned out; it looks really effective and modern in the DIY frame.

I hope you like it too :)

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    2 Discussions

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    Penolopy Bulnick

    15 days ago

    This is a great material for this! The blues remind me of like a lake depth map :)

    1 reply